Today, I have something very original for you. Bunny, A Bow-Wow Bistro Series Novella by Teddy Cat Hester. A new release and you get the first peek. There are four novellas in this series. I counted 93 pages in the debut book. The other three are also available now! First off, I have to say that this novella is the best-formatted book…ever. You have to pick it up just to see the original way she did her the interior. Seriously! There’s this paw and the pad is a little heart and inside the heart is the chapter numbers. It is the cutest thing.
At twenty-five, Bunny Cloverfield has had it with boyish men who spend more time playing games than attending to her and her two Cavalier spaniels. She’s serious about her computer-consulting career and her dogs, and she’s looking for similar dedication in a potential mate.
Thirty-year-old Maxwell Sheridan is too focused on managing his venture capital business to invest in serious relationships, much less ones that come with dog fuzz and slobbery kisses. In the little free time he allows himself, he plays backgammon for charity fund-raisers.
When their paths cross in this romantic comedy, fur and sparks fly.
Can a dog-loving computer consultant escape past mistakes and let herself love a seriously sexy, pet-immune gamer?
I’m excited. Everyone loves a good story with dogs in it- me included. What is it about those adorable little creatures we love so much?
Now, for Teddy’s First Chapter.
Every morning’s a cuddle fest with two tricolor King Charles Cavalier Spaniels. This morning I’m the filling in their sleep sandwich, two furry beasties snuggled tight against either side of my torso. In the nightly battle for the bed, even my ex, Duncan, hadn’t stood a chance. Not that it mattered. Night was almost day before he’d finish playing whatever game held his attention. Most mornings we’d find him curled up on the couch, draped in my Snuggie. Turns out pink was a good color for him. Too bad our relationship wasn’t as good a fit.
With a big sigh, I sit up. It’s the mops’ cue the day is about to begin. They leap from the bed and dash out the bedroom door. I’m slower to follow, taking time to shower and groom before joining them.
A familiar sight in the living room greets me and puts a smile on my face. Two little furry bottoms sway back and forth, bushy tails wagging. Flopsy and Mopsy stand at the picture window of our ground-floor apartment, front paws braced on the sill, noses pressed against the glass, entranced.
I flop down in the cozy chair I keep near the window for my own animal-watching, preferably the two-legged, muscled kind without shirts. I’ve gone almost all winter without sighting one of those . . . much less touching one since my break-up . . .
It’s full-on spring here in the heartland. The precious dark eyes of my pups follow the flight of birds swooping through the yard, sunlight dappling the grass. Colorful tulip beds and lilac bushes dot the space between my building and the residential neighborhood. Fat, lazy bees float around the wisteria arbor at the edge of our patio and beautiful ornamental pear trees in full bloom. A glorious time of year.
Here’s the problem—
My name is Bunny Cloverfield.
I dread spring. Well, commercialized Easter, mostly. With a name like mine, can you blame me?
What kind of mother gives her child a name ready-made for ridicule?
She said she just couldn’t resist. With the last name Cloverfield, I guess it was to be expected. After all, a cute little bundle of pink skin, blue eyes, and a halo of apricot hair is just begging for it, right?
Once I get past Easter, though, I’m okay with spring, except for the sappy spring fever that seems to hit everybody. My two wiggly little dogs are freaky over spring. Can’t wait to roll around in it with their canine pals.
Flopsy jumps down from the window seat and fetches her leash.
“Ready to go outside, sweetie?” Her tail wags her whole body, and her eyes sparkle like obsidian in the sun.
Mopsy’s jumped down and splayed himself flat on the floor, going for broke.
Hands on my hips, I stare down at him. “Really. Pulling out the big guns?”
His tail whips back and forth.
What he doesn’t know is I’m prepared to stay inside with my head under the covers until all evidence of Easter is done and gone. If my solitude lasts past the usual spring fever evidenced by lovers and their goo-goo eyes, that’ll be okay, too.
Chin between two fuzzy paws, Mopsy’s soulful brown eyes gaze up beseechingly.
He holds his pose.
I throw my hands up in the air. “Gah! You win.”
Canine Country Club and Bow-Wow Bistro, here we come!
The main Canine Country Club building serves dogs and their owners, offering human bathroom facilities, a gift shop, and membership sign-in for access to the extensive grounds. The main building is large enough to contain a doggie spa where pampered pets are groomed and can even receive massages and acupuncture treatments.
Out of the north end of the main building, the Bow-Wow Bistro offers healthy, organic meals and treats for guests from a pass-through window. Heavy metal tables with attached benches are scattered over the concrete patio area covered with a permanent awning to keep out the sun and rain. Occasionally, as today, the Country Club hosts events to raise money for charity and operating expenses.
When I knew I was going to have to face pre-Easter spring in public, I called my posse. The Bowsers are my three BFFs who also own a pair of dogs each. We regularly congregate at the Bistro to chat and let our pups socialize. If the dog park weren’t owned by one of us, none of us would be able to afford it.
“Well! Isn’t the Bow-Wow Bistro a beehive of beautiful bitches today!” my friend Scarlett says, guiding her pair of Greater Swiss Mountain dogs to our table on the concrete patio. The male, who weighs more than his owner, plops his massive head on the tabletop while his mama bends down to sort out the leads. “Damn, my hair’s all tangled in my leashes! Can you help me here?”
Portia, the owner of the facilities, chuckles. I tug Scarlett’s long red hair up and out of the way, then go back to my seat. When the Swissies are tied up, Portia rubs the glossy spot between one dog’s brows. “He’s ready for lunch, I see. And how are you, girl?” she asks the female who’s sticking close to mama. “Feeling kind of shy today?”
After a beat, Portia squats next to her, not touching or looking at her, letting the dog socialize in her own good time. When the Swissy finally leans in to scent Portia, they rub cheeks. “Good girl.”
“Oh, yeah, they know the drill,” short, curvy Megan chimes in as she maneuvers her shambling pair of yellow labs to the metal loops on the back of the bench seat. They flash their signature doggie smiles around the group, panting their pleasure at the familiar outing.
One of my Cavaliers sounds a greeting, and I intervene. “Psst! Hey, Flopsy. No barking in public.”
Adoring black eyes stare up at me, fluffy tail wagging energetically. Mopsy roams over to sit with the big boys. I start to pull him back, but Scarlett stops me.
“Oh, let him live his dream, Bunny. He thinks he’s a Swissy who’ll catch up someday.” She unclips Mopsy’s leash from my seat and fastens it instead next to her Swissies. She gives him an affectionate pat, careful to dodge his sloppy thanks.
“That dog sure gives good tongue,” Scarlett observes. “A few of the men I’ve dated lately could take lessons.” She bends down and rubs the sides of his face between her hands.
Aww. Mopsy’s such a sweet thing. My heart flips over in a chest suddenly too tight, like it never has for a man. He runs in and out between the legs of the bigger dogs, oblivious to the fact that he’s a fuzzy house slipper to their steel-toed work boots. He’s also prey to hunters. Which reminds me . . . “Where are your racers?”
Portia’s finely manicured finger points to the dog run at the far side of the Club grounds. Two Italian greyhounds look more like prima ballerinas in pale gray leotards. They grand jeté around the dirt oval, chasing a furry toy on a mechanical arm. “They’ve been whimpering all morning, so I sent them out to work off some energy before lunch.”
“Golly, they’re beautiful.” Megan straightens from securing the labs and stretches, taking in a gulp of fresh air.
Golly? Only a woman surrounded by children all day could get away with saying something like that.
“I just love spring!” she gushes.
Sure. Your name’s Megan Pennybaker. If your mama had named you Marvelous Marigold Medley, I bet you’d be trillin’ a different tune.
While she’s busy channeling her preschool-teacher enthusiasm, I’m eyeballing a shirtless guy out in the fenced-in park. A well-defined arm raises, drawing attention to muscled shoulders and broad back as he flings a brightly colored Frisbee. The spinning disk sails through the air, and an eager pooch springs up to catch it. The lure of neon blue bicycle shorts hanging low on slim hips and hugging every bulging asset brings out my inner pooch panting and eager to spring into action—Frisbee optional.
“Yeah, great, beautiful,” I mumble, standing stock-still beside her, mesmerized by visions of homo erectus. Spring does have a couple of advantages, I guess.
Megan clears her throat, and I glance over at her. She’s stroking her male lab and drinking in Frisbee Guy. Two red patches on her cheeks look like somebody rubbed them with sandpaper. Her dog yelps. Hmm. Mama dig her fingers too deep into your neck, there, boy?
Holy cow. Here we go. Spring fever sure is a potent freakin’ bug.
I turn back to the peep show in the park. What is it about men in their prime, exercising and having fun? Wide smiles? Faint sheen of sweat? Trails of body hair highlighting virility? Rumbling chuckles?
Strong hands rub furry ears, reminding me of how it feels to have strong hands on my—never mind.
Portia glides up behind me and follows my gaze. “All those rippling muscles. It’s like we’re voyeurs at an outdoor tanning booth.”
Scarlett’s attention is snagged, too, judging from her deep sigh. “Nothing better than a dog and his man.” She nudges me with her shoulder. “You about ready to get back into that scene, Bun? Maybe take home one of your own?”
And there it is. The video of stripped-down Frisbee Guy in the park cueing up on my internal monitor sputters to a halt. I roll my eyes. Bunny Cloverfield is immune to spring fever when it involves guys playing a game. Unless he’s a serious guy, ready for adult responsibilities over games-playing, Megan can have him. “Sure, Scar, Frisbee sounds fun. I’ll pick one up.”
“Honestly, Ms. Grouch, if you’re thinking to pick anything up, why not make it that hottie out there?” She jerks her chin at Frisbee Guy who chooses this moment to drop on the ground and rough-house with his pittie. It’s a toss-up as to who’s the better-built male. Flopsy whines. She’s made her choice. When she looks up at me, I swear her dark eyes beg.
I drop to my knees and fiddle with the curly black silk of her ear. “Oh, Sweetie, you’d be dessert for that fella. He’d scoop you up in one bite. And we couldn’t have that, could we?”
Wag, wag. Swish, swish.
My hands fit perfectly around her little face, and our noses nearly touch. Baby-talk dribbles out of my mouth. “No, we couldn’t have that, nope, nuh-uh, that’s right, no pittie party for you, sweet girl. Not my good little girl.”
By the time I’m finished, my register is higher than a 10-year-old boy singing soprano, and Flopsy’s tongue is flailing to rain kisses on anything that gets in its path.
Scarlett’s silence warns me. My gaze flicks up to where she stands staring at me with a smirk on her face. For a second, it seems like her head is on fire, the cranberry and neon orange streaks in her hair glowing in the afternoon sun.
“What?” I ask.
“How many dates have you had in the last month?”
Flopsy cocks her head at me as if she’s interested in hearing the answer to that question, too.
“With the upsurge in muggings these days? It’s too dangerous to date,” I say with a sniff for emphasis.
Suddenly I have an audience. Not only is Scarlett gazing dramatically down on me, Portia is back from fetching her racers and takes the bench closest to where I’m kneeling with Flopsy. Megan rouses out of her intoxication with spring’s bounty to turn around on her bench and face us. The female lab pops her head up with a doggie-vocal slide that sounds like a question.
The male Swissy raises his head to scope the scene. Oblivious to the tension around him, he dismisses us all with a jaw-cracking yawn before rolling over for a nap.
His nonchalance makes me want to giggle, but I figure that’s probably not the best way to handle this situation.
Geez, could things get any more uncomfortable?
“So, okay, it’s not about the increase in crime. You know this is the time of year I hibernate.”
Scarlett rolls her eyes. “No, Bun, this is the time of year animals wake up and find themselves a mate.”
“Richard Bach says ‘Our soulmates are the ones who bring life to life.’ Don’t you want a soulmate, Bun?” Megan asks, studying me.
Do I? Holding hands, wandering through a gallery, riding bicycles, cuddling through a movie? Sure, it would be nice, I guess. With the right guy. No, with a man. I’m tired of man-boys in backward baseball caps and video game equipment littering the living room.
Out of nowhere, I’m clocked on the back of the head.
“Ow! Hey!” I complain, rubbing the collision site. I turn to share what’s left of my mind with Frisbee Guy.
“Sorry. I didn’t see you down there,” says a man whose must have been excavated from the Mariana Trench. I scope him from head to toe and back.
I don’t know who he is, but he isn’t Megan’s Frisbee Guy.
Tingles radiate from the bump on my head, down the rest of my body in a shivering wave that almost knocks me over. It electrifies Flopsy, too. She sidles his direction with an enticing wiggle.
“I guess that suitcase you lugged to the dog park blocked your line of sight.”
He holds up the offending parcel. “You mean my backgammon case?”
Oh, that voice. If he doesn’t stop giving me chills with it, I’m going to need a sweater.
“Is that what it is? Felt like it’s filled with rocks.”
He gives me a stiff half-smile as he deposits his gear at the table next to ours and sets up for a game. He’s not model gorgeous, more substantial looking than handsome. Medium brown hair, cut businessman short. Fit body of a thirty-year-old, built like a mountain, his face its rugged surface.
“No rocks, just little round checkers.” He holds one up. “We’ll try to stay on this side of the aisle. I’m Max Sheridan, by the way. Aren’t you ladies playing in the tournament today?”
He’s into games? Oh, goody, just what I need, another gamer. “No, oddly, we brought our dogs to the dog park. Didn’t you bring yours?” I counter.
He eyes Flopsy and her antics to attract his attention. “I don’t have any pets. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
Strike two, Mr. Basso Profundo. Telling you my name would be a waste of breath.
“She’s Bunny Cloverfield, and I’m Megan Pennybaker,” our exuberant preschool teacher chimes. “This is Scarlett Peacock, and that’s Portia Goldstone.” They wave on cue, and he nods back.
He turns to me, a twinkle in his eyes. “Nice to meet you, Bunny Cloverfield.”
It’ll be stee-rike three if you make one comment about my name.
“And who’s this delightful flirt?” he rumbles down at Flopsy. She rolls over and presents her belly for a friendly rub. For a split second, I have the impulse to follow suit.
That’s spring for you.
All sorts of muggers on the loose.
Follow Teddy Hester
Short-n-Sweet Romantic Comedy. Debut novella, first in the Bow-Wow Bistro series of four standalone novellas.
Author Page: Teddy Cat Hester